I love small business. There...I said it! I absolutely love small business. From restaurants and bars, to clothing stores, to neighborhood pantries...I love them all. Even the places that may not have had the best experiences at – places that I, myself, would most likely not patronize. I still love them. Why? Well, perhaps it’s due to my general disdain for large corporations. Yes, I know that large corporations have their place – we wouldn’t have the wonderful Apple products, for instance, without the behemoth Apple corporation. A friend recently pointed out that large corporations are able to use their size to be able to provide cheaper access to products and services to those who ordinarily could not afford them. Although I would speculate that the large corporations are the reason that there are people who can’t afford not to buy from them.
But I digress. As far as I’m concerned, whenever I can, I will give my money to a small business over a large corporation. My love for small business is rooted in the idea that a person can have control over her own destiny. It’s the old dream of being good at something, and benefiting from it while your customers benefit, too. It’s the notion that a community benefits from the workings of many small businesses, and can be done a great disservice by being dependent on one or two large ones.
Yes, there are some large companies that actually care about more than just profits and shareholder equity. Some big businesses truly care about their employees, their customers, the environment, and their place in the community. Recently, there have been some large companies that have taken their windfall tax cuts and donated them to charities. There are large companies that have high ethical standards and do good things with the best of intentions. So I don't mean to portray all large businesses as monolithic.
Again, I digress. My point is, small, local businesses are what pull small towns out of disasters when large companies pack up and move out. They are the heart and soul of a community. And I always love seeing a small business succeed.
Unfortunately, that tends to be an exception. The overwhelming majority of small business start-ups fail within the first year. The following years can be even more perilous. If your business is still around after five years, you are a rock star. There are many reasons for this, and that is what I want to deal with in these articles. It’s my hope that by sharing these things that I’ve learned will help keep small businesses in business.
I also hope to hear from you. Those who do own businesses – what have you learned? What lessons have you learned from your strokes of brilliance and your mistakes? I would also like to hear from employees who have never owned a business. What do you see that your employers are doing that works, and what doesn’t? I’d like to hear from customers and clients – what do you want from the small businesses that you deal with? What do they do right, and how can they improve?
We are, after all, a community. As a community, we rise and fall together. Let’s work together, learn together, and as a result, succeed together.